Tuesday, July 27, 2021

For young readers of all ages.


What happens when you round up twenty members of Western Writers of America, assign a couple of editors to ride herd on them, have each of them cut out a true—but little known—story from the Wild West and tell it in a way that will engage teenage readers?

You get Why Cows Need Cowboys and Other Seldom-Told Tales from the American West.

Editors Nancy Plain and Rocky Gibbons have accomplished a first in the annals of Western writing with this anthology. WWA has created other anthologies and collections over the years covering a wide range, but never before, not since its establishment in 1953, has a herd of some of America’s most accomplished Western writers pointed their pens and pencils in the direction of our youth.

Well done.

But you don’t have to be an adolescent to read and enjoy and learn from this book. Even those who are well-read in Western history will find new and entertaining incidents and episodes, people and places in these pages.

You’ll even find out why it took Earl—one of the Bronc-Bustin’ Bascom Brothers—sixty-five years to get the All-Around Cowboy trophy buckle he won at a rodeo. I know, because I got to tell that story.

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Really stupid words, Chapter 17.

 

When was the last time you heard someone say, “I’ll call them,” or “I’ll write to them,” or “I’ll talk to them,” or even, nowadays, “I’ll text them.”

Not long ago, perhaps. But, if your ears hear the same things mine do, it is likely that more often than not you hear, “I’ll reach out to them.”

I hear it all the time. I don’t mind it, really. But it seems less precise than saying what you actually intend to do—such as call, write, talk, text, or what have you. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that “reach out” has more cachet. And it sounds more personal, warmer, fuzzier, and all that. Like going for a hug, sort of.

Here’s why.

I will bet cash against cow pies that it all started back in 1979 with an advertising campaign from AT&T. Back then, telephone service was provided by regulated monopolies. AT&T was it for long-distance calls (for those who remember such things) and for local service through the Bell System. The campaign encouraged more long-distance calling—for which they made money, of course—by persuading us to “Reach out and touch someone.” That tag line punctuated a lovely (and touching) little jingle on TV and radio that I can still sing to this day. It firmly established “reach out” as the thing to do, and we still “reach out” today.

Except for me. I prefer to write. Or call.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

About those cat videos.









I have no personal experience in the matter, but I am told that cat videos are popular on the internet. I wonder if that fascination spills over to cat books.

Our cowboy hero Rawhide Robinson, star of many a campfire tale and Old West adventure, is up to his knees in felines in Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail—The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe. Winner of a 2015 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award and Finalist for a Western Writers of America Spur Award, this hilarious tale is now available in paperback and eBook, formatted to fit your bookshelf and whatever electronic gadgets you have. The publisher, Speaking Volumes, has listed the novel all over the place:

Print Book:

eBook:

eBook Preview:

·   Amazon US
·   Google Play

Enough shameless commerce for today. Rest. Relax. Curl up with a good kitty and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

“Black Joe” wins.








Western Fictioneers is a professional organization of authors formed in 2010 to “to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century.” To that end, each year they bestow Peacemaker Awards—named for Samuel Colt’s famous pistol—to honor the best in Western writing.

 The 2021 Peacemaker Award winners were announced recently, and I am tickled pink to pass along news that my story “Black Joe” took the prize for Best Western Short Fiction. “Black Joe” was published in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Saddlebag Dispatches magazine.

The story was inspired by a song of the same name from Brenn Hill’s album Rocky Mountain Drifter (which also includes the song built from my poem “And the River Ran Red”). Brenn’s “Black Joe” song was inspired by a violent encounter with a mustang stud as told to Brenn by his compadre Andy Nelson, a standout cowboy poet, performer, humorist, and author. Andy got the story from his father, Jim Nelson. There’s a lot of literary license involved in my telling, but there is no doubt about the seed from which the story sprouted.

“Black Joe” is a fine short story—if I do say so myself—but the credit goes to those mentioned above. All I did was type.

 


Monday, June 14, 2021

My biggest audience, ever.


 






A few weeks ago, I had lunch with my old friend Brian Crane who, for years, has lived on the opposite side of the Great Basin, some 500 miles away. So, we don’t see each other as often as we like. Many, many years ago we worked together in a small ad agency in Idaho Falls, were in business together for a time, and later worked together again at an ad agency in Reno.

I left there for Utah and he stayed. Brian stayed in advertising for a time, working as an art director and designer. But he worked his way out of the business by drawing funny pictures and writing funny words. And he’s kept at it for more than thirty years, earning a living and much acclaim as one of America’s top comic strip artists—the man behind “Pickles.”

I have written a lot of poems over the years, and been published in a lot of periodicals, anthologies, collections, and online. But my most widely read poems are probably—almost certainly—those ghost-written for, or in collaboration with, one of the stars of Brian’s comic strip, Earl Pickles.

Now and then, Earl gets a hankering to be a cowboy poet. When he first got the urge, I lent a hand. Now the old geezer writes his own poems. But, like the little verse above, my words have on occasion basked in Earl’s limelight in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of newspapers across the country.

If that’s as close to fame as I ever get as a cowboy poet, I’ll take it.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Dateline: My House

 

SANDY, UTAH: Work proceeds apace at writer Rod Miller’s desk. The author recently shipped With a Kiss I Die off to Five Star Publishing. The novel follows the star-crossed love story of a young emigrant girl from Arkansas and a Mormon boy from Utah Territory, and events leading up to the historic Mountain Meadows Massacre. Given publishing schedules, the book is not expected to see the light until 2023.

In other news, Five Star Publishing recently completed the cover design for the writer’s forthcoming release, And the River Ran Red. This novel is also based on Western history and tells the story of the Massacre at Bear River, the deadliest slaughter of American Indians by the US Army in the history of the West.

But not all the writing news is related to tragic historic massacres. Miller just finished proofing page galleys for the paperback and ebook release of the hilarious Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award-winning and Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist novel, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe, soon to be released by Speaking Volumes. That publisher also revealed the cover design for Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero, a finalist for the WWA Spur and Western Fictioneers Peacemaker awards. Both comic novels should hit the shelves, physical and digital, any day now.

On schedule for release in early 2022 from Five Star is a novel by Miller that has already been labeled a “frontier classic,” All My Sins Remembered. Finally—for now—This Thy Brother, a sequel to his 2018 Peacemaker finalist, Father unto Many Sons, is expected for release by Five Star in the fall of 2022.

Read all about writer Rod Miller’s fiction, history, poetry, and magazine work at www.writerRodMiller.com and www.RawhideRobinson.com.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Where I’m going, Part 5.

 






    Over the years I have been to Fort Worth, Texas, a few times. But not enough. Other than a two-day stay for the big rodeo there, my forays into Fort Worth have been a couple of hours here and there while in the area on other business.
    And my last visit, whenever it was, was a long time ago. So I’m ready to go back.
    Fort Worth is a big city. But it’s a city—unlike many others I could name—that has never tried to outgrow its past as a cowtown. It takes pride in its past, and much of what I want to see and do there celebrates that past and Western heritage in general.
    I saw a lot of great Charlie Russell paintings at the Sid Richardson Museum and will make a return visit. Then there’s the Amon Carter Museum I have heard good things about. And the National Cowgirl Museum and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
    And, of course, the Fort Worth Stockyards and all its attractions—even though it’s a bit touristy for my taste.
    There might even be time to find something good to eat.

 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Month bonus.

 
    April is National Poetry Month here in the good ol’ USA. Here we are at the short end of it. We’ve had thirty days of poetry readings, poetry recitals, poetry postings, and poetry podcasts.
    By now, you may have had your fill of poetry—if such a thing is even possible.
    But hold on. You’re not free of it yet.
    There’s a popular podcast called “Cowboy Up” that originates from the White Stallion Ranch in New Mexico, hosted—usually—by Alan Day and Russell True, and produced by Stan Hustad.
    To close out National Poetry Month, “Cowboy Up” is offering a bonus program. Log on and you can hear Stan interview me and read a few of my poems as we talk about poetry and cowboys.
    You’re invited, welcome, and encouraged to listen in. Click here and you’ll be there: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-cowboy-up-podcast/id1521902050

 


Friday, April 16, 2021

My Favorite Book, Part 26.


    Over the years I have presented many a lecture to writers’ groups on a variety of subjects. One topic in particular, presented on several occasions, examines outstanding opening lines in books, why they work, and how writers can use that knowledge to create better openings for their own stories.
    One example I use—one of my favorites—is, “He was dying faster than usual that morning, striping the sides of the dry sink with bloody sputum and shreds of shattered lung.”
    So begins Bloody Season by Loren D. Estleman.
    Not only does it begin in a way that intrigues and engages readers, it drags us into the story to find out the who, what, where, and why of Estleman’s opening line. And it doesn’t stop there. The entire book sings with wordsmithing that makes the reading as fascinating as the story.
    Bloody Season is the story of the famed gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Not only do we learn what led to the altercation, we learn what happened in the aftermath—a bloody season of manhunts and murders. You’ll come to know Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and other well-known characters better than you know them now, no matter how well that is.
    Few writers can evoke the level of feeling that Estleman can, or paint characters with such vivid color. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this book. But I can promise you I’ll read it again.

 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Lost by a nose.


    I miss the smell of books. It used to be I could walk into any one of a number of bookstores in my area and breathe in the smell of ink or paper or glue or dust or whatever it is that gives bookstores that distinctive smell. They were all different, I suppose, but there was something in the way they touched the nose that they shared.
    Most of those bookstores—along with their counterparts all across the country—are gone now. A few are victims of the recent and ongoing pandemic. Some lost out by being undersold once too often by online predators. And some were done in by the so-called big-box category killers that took over the market in years past, aided by business practices since declared illegal.
    The most venomous of those is still around and, in many places, is the only seller of new books still standing. Visiting those stores just isn’t the same, somehow. And they don’t smell right—they smell like coffee, rather than books.
    There are still some bookstores that smell like bookstores are supposed to smell, but there are fewer of them all the time, and they are increasingly farther between.
    I look forward to my next visit, spending time sniffing out some good books.

 




Thursday, March 25, 2021

Really stupid words, Chapter 16.

 

Now and then I hear a word bandied about that makes no sense to me. Most of the time, it is spouted by highbrow academic types—say, some anthropologists, ethnologists, archeologists, museum curators and, sometimes, historians—and it always strikes me as uppity.
    The word: peoples.
    Why does anyone, ever, need to add a plural-forming “s” to a word that’s already plural? (I opened a dictionary and it defined “people” as “plural: human beings making up a group or assembly or linked by a common interest.”) You can’t have a single people—that would be a “person.” By its very existence, the word “people” means more than one.
    Is it possible to make a plural even more plural by adding an “s”? I don’t think so. It makes no sense to say womens or mens or childrens. Why not add more plurality to, say, chickens by adding an “s” and making it chickenss? Or, if you mean more horses than just horses, say horsess? And, of course, if you don’t find the word cattle to be plural enough to suit your fancy, make it cattles.
    I don’t know about you, but I see no need for a grandiose, ostentatious word like peoples. But I did find a dictionary that defined “peoples” as the “Third-person singular simple present indicative form of people.”
    Huh?
    I rest my case.

 


Monday, March 15, 2021

Where I was 47 years ago.







March 15, 1974. Ogden, Utah. Church of the Good Shepherd. Getting married for the first and (almost) last time.


Friday, March 5, 2021

History gone wrong: Forgetting Dominguez.

    The name “Escalante” graces many places on the map of Utah. There’s a town, a basin, a canyon, a desert, a mountain, a natural bridge, a river, a state park, and—in partnership with Grand Staircase—a national monument. Maybe more.
    If you’re unfamiliar with the history of my home state you may wonder why this is. And there are some of us familiar with that history who also wonder why.
    Our story begins in 1776, when folks Back East were quibbling with Great Britain. Out here in New Spain, later to be part of Mexico, and later still becoming much of the western United States, the Spaniards had already established missions and settlements, and were exploring trade routes and sites for other missions.
    Enter Fray Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. Or, as we in Utah’s schools call him, Father Escalante. The good Father was with an expedition seeking a route from Santa Fe to Monterey. Their path brought them into what is now Utah—through the Unita Basin and the Wasatch Mountains and Utah Valley, then deep into the southern part of our state.
    The way Escalante’s name got plastered all over the place, you’d think he was in charge of the whole thing. But that’s where history (the popular notion of history, that is) gets it wrong.
    In truth, Escalante, who kept the diary of the expedition, and Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco, the mapmaker (see his handiwork above), and the handful of other men in the party were under the command of Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez.
    Domínguez organized the journey. Domínguez led the way. Domínguez determined the route. Domínguez gave the orders. Domínguez made the tough decisions.
    His name does not appear on any prominent place or landmark on the maps of Utah.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A Thousand Dead Horses hit the trail.

 
    After being bedridden for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, A Thousand Dead Horses is finally on the market.
    By happenstance, like Pinebox Collins, the novel that precedes it, it features a main character with a wooden leg. But I had no choice this time. The book is based on a historic horse-stealing expedition from the 1840s, and one of the primary perpetrators of that adventure was famed mountain man Thomas L. “Pegleg” Smith. Honest.
    Besides Pegleg Smith, the story features other characters from history including mountain men “Old Bill” Williams and James Beckwourth, and Ute leader Wakara. The horses and mules they stole are real, too—but I don’t know their names.
    Marc Cameron, New York Times bestselling author of the Jericho Quinn political thrillers, the Arliss Cutter crime novels, and several of the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan novels, says, “A Thousand Dead Horses crackles with the authentic voice of a writer who knows how to sit a horse—and tell a terrific story. Fire embers snap, saddle leather groans—and the richly drawn characters pull you along with them on their adventure.”
    The story, based on history from the Old West, will take you from Santa Fe to California and back again on the Old Spanish Trail.
    Ride along.

 


Saturday, February 13, 2021

My Favorite Book, Part 25.

 
     The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West, from 1840-1900 by Candy Moulton is not the kind of book where you start at the beginning and keep turning pages until you reach the end. Not at all. It is a reference work; as the title indicates, a guide for writers.
    But don’t let that discourage you. While I do use it for reference in my writing, and have done so for years, I also read the book for enjoyment. From time to time I will lift it off the shelf where it lives beside my desk and open it at random. No matter where I land, I will find interesting facts about how folks used to live, whether at home or at work or on the trail.
    Where else would you learn, for instance, that Doc Holliday charged three dollars to pull a tooth? Or the ins-and-outs of two-story outhouses? Or that it took 700 pounds of bacon to get a family of four across the plains? Or the use of “Nebraska Marble” in home construction?
    Every page is peppered with tidbits of the sort—information that is engaging to contemplate, interesting to learn, and fun to know.
    So, whether you are a writer or not, this is a book you should own. After all, who knows when an occasion may arise over dinner or drinks to point out that the song “Dinah Had a Wooden Leg” was a big hit among cowboys in the Wild West.

 


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Where I was on January 29.

 

As regular readers know, January 29, 1863 is the date of the Massacre at Bear River, during which US Army soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Shoshoni Indians, many of them old people, women, and children. It was the deadliest massacre of Indians by the military in the history of the West.
    For many years, members of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation have met at the site to commemorate the lives and deaths of their ancestors, who were nearly wiped out in the massacre. The public is graciously hosted at the ceremonies.
    This year, 2021, things were different.
    Owing to the Covid pandemic, the affair was smaller in scale, with formal invitations extended only to members of the Band. Some interested parties, including yours truly, drove to the site to honor the day in whatever way was possible. We were welcomed.
    But, more important, for the first time the ceremonies were held in a new location—on bluffs above the river bottom on land owned—for the first time in 158 years—by the Band, and near where the Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center is taking shape. (Boa Ogoi means Big River in Shoshoni, and is the traditional name for the Bear River.)
    Pictured is the relatively small but caring crowd at the commemoration; former tribal chairman and main force behind the Interpretive Center, Darren Parry; and tribal elder Gwen Timbimboo Davis. Both Parry and Davis are descendants of Sagwitch Timbimboo, tribal leader who was wounded at but survived the Massacre, and held the remnants of the band together in the aftermath.
    Donations toward the development of the Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center are welcome, and certainly a worthwhile expenditure for lovers of Western History who recognize the importance of remembering even its darkest days.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Where I’m going, Part Four.



   







 Way out in the far northeastern corners of Utah and northwestern Colorado, just south of the Wyoming border, a lonely valley stretches along the Green River: Brown’s Park, or Brown’s Hole if you prefer. Nowadays, it is a far piece from anywhere and not all that easy to get to. But it was a well-traveled place in the Old West.
    For time out of mind, it was frequented by the Shoshoni, Ute, and Comanche. Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Navajo also visited. Fur trappers set up shop there in the 1830s, and Fort Davy Crockett opened up to supply and defend them in 1837. Ranchers followed the mountain men, wintering cattle there as well as establishing ranches.
    One of those ranches spawned Ann and Josie Bassett, who collaborated with cattle rustlers, horse thieves, robbers, and other bandits who made Brown’s Hole an outpost on the Outlaw Trail that ran from Robber’s Roost to the south and Hole in the Wall to the north. Among the most renowned outlaws who hid out there were Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch and, later, the fugitive Tom Horn.
    Despite an enduring desire to go there, I have yet to set foot in Brown’s Park. One of these days…

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Rawhide Robinson gets a re-ride.

    
    Some of you will be familiar with Rawhide Robinson. He’s the ordinary cowboy who spins stories about his extraordinary experiences. He’s the star of three award-winning novels, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail, and Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary. His outlandish tales are enjoyable for readers from junior high age to geriatrics. He even has his own website where you can get to know him.
    The news of the day is that Rawhide Robinson is once again riding into the literary world, in new paperback and eBook editions from the publishing house Speaking Volumes.
    Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range: True Adventures of Bravery and Daring in the Wild West is now available in paperback and eBook. That’s the handsome new cover above. The other two Rawhide Robinson novels previously published in hardcover will be along soon in paperback and eBook. And, somewhere down the trail, another Rawhide Robinson adventure will be available for the first time—Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole: A True Tale of Bravery and Daring in the Weird West.
    For gifts, for yourself, or just for fun, when Rawhide Robinson rides into your life you’ll have a lot to laugh about. Stand by for crass commercialism. Here’s where the new edition of Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range is now on sale:

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Bird has flown.

   


Back in our college days when all the rodeo bums who lived at or hung around the Rounder House were known by nicknames more than names, Marlowe Carroll was Bird, or the Bird Man, a moniker earned by long, skinny legs.
    More than anyone else I can think of, Bird was influential in my rodeo years. When I arrived at USU he ran the Rodeo Club and was the star of the Intercollegiate Rodeo Team, winning a bunch in both bareback and bull riding. He made sure I was involved in the club, and encouraged and supported and assisted my efforts as I earned a place on the team, eight seconds at a time. We spent a lot of time together, much of it involved in activities best unmentioned—but those days resulted in a lifetime’s worth of memories.
    A series of brain aneurisms and strokes while still a young man ended Marlowe’s rodeo career and landed him in a wheelchair, his agile mind betrayed by a mostly unresponsive body. Still, he lived for decades and never lost his sense of humor or happy outlook on life.
    Marlowe—Bird—left this life in late December, and made the whistle with the same grit and try that you see on his face in the photo of him aboard the infamous bucking bull Fuzzy 4.
    (The other fuzzy photo shows the USU Rodeo Club in 1971. That’s Marlowe in the upper right; yours truly is there on the left.)

 

WOMB TO TOMB
for Marlowe

Two hearts. One beats steady
and strong. The other races by.
Confinement presses knee
against rib, back to thigh.

Sounds, muffled and distant,
penetrate. Irresistible, the urge.
Pull. Squeeze. Slide. Every muscle
tense, you nod and emerge;

delivered into chaotic glare
assaulted by motion and sound.
Bull bellows. Brain blows.
Body, unbound, seeks ground.

Face down in arena dirt
consciousness goes astray
as flooding blood erodes neurons
and synapses wash away.

Tucked, then, into the coffin of
a body cold and unresponsive;
rolling through years gathering
dust as memories weave

tapestries of Rounders and rodeo,
broncs and bulls—of life before
a hemorrhagic stroke of bad luck
drew you out to ride no more.